What You Need to Know About Breast Cancer Screenings
A mammogram is a safe, low-dose X-ray of the breast tissue. It’s used to find small tumors that you or your doctor may not feel in a clinical or self-breast exam. Mammograms are the best way for doctors to detect early signs of breast cancer.
Why You Need It
Breast cancer is one of the most diagnosed cancers in the U.S. and affects 1 in 8 women. Mammograms often show cancer before it can be felt. This allows you to catch cancer early and prevent it from spreading. Mammograms also show clusters of calcium and lumps that can affect your health in other ways. If you’re worried, you can also schedule an appointment with your doctor to have a clinical breast exam. During the exam, your doctor will carefully feel your breasts and under your arms to check for lumps and other unusual changes. Monthly self-exams can also be used as a tool but should not replace a mammogram or clinical exam.
How Much Does It Cost?
Mammogram screenings are no cost to you as part of your Florida Blue Medicare health plan. If the doctor does find that your mammogram is not normal you may need to have additional testing. Those tests may have a copay or additional costs for specialists or treatment.
What Should You Expect?
No preparation is required for a mammogram. Once in the clinic, you will stand in front of a special X-ray machine. The specialist will place your breast on a clear plastic plate. Another plate will firmly press your breast from above and flatten it, holding it in place while the X-ray is taken. You will feel some pressure. The steps are repeated to take an X-ray of the side view and then repeated on the other breast.
Having a mammogram is often uncomfortable for most women. Every woman is different and the size of the breast and how sensitive the breasts are may affect your comfort. A mammogram only takes a few moments so your discomfort will be over soon.
It usually takes a few weeks to get your mammogram results. A radiologist reads your mammogram and talks with your doctor about the results. If you do not get your results within 30 days, call your doctor or the clinic where you had your mammogram done.
If your mammogram is normal, continue to get regular clinical breast exams and mammogram screenings. Mammogram results are best when doctors have your old ones to compare them to. If your mammogram is not normal don’t get too worried. Abnormal mammograms do not always mean cancer. You will need to contact your doctor and talk with them about more screenings and tests to determine the problem. You may also be recommended to a breast specialist who can give you more information and plan the next steps for you.
Helpful Tips When Getting a Mammogram
- Always describe any changes or problems you are having to the specialist.
- Don’t wear deodorant, perfume or powder. These products can show up as white spots on the X-ray.
- You will need to undress from your waist up for the mammogram. Most women feel more comfortable wearing pants or a skirt with a top instead of a dress.
Although self-examinations don’t replace your clinical exam and your mammogram, it can be a helpful tool.
- Lie down and place your right arm behind your head. When lying down the breast tissue will spread evenly over the chest and make it easier to feel the breast tissue.
- Use three fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps in the right breast.
- In circular motions, use different levels of pressure to feel all of the breast tissue.
- Make sure to feel the entire breast. Move to the middle of your chest. Be sure to feel down to your ribs and up as high as your neck and collarbone.
- Repeat the exam on your left breast, putting your left arm behind your head and using your right hand.
- Next, stand in front of a mirror with your arms down against your hips. Look at your breasts and check for changes in size, shape, and color.
- While standing, examine each underarm. Slightly raise your arm and feel for any lumps or abnormal areas.
How Do I Make an Appointment?
If you haven’t had your Annual Wellness Visit yet this year, this is a great time to ask your doctor about any screenings you need. Your primary care doctor can help you set up the appointment or tell you who to call.
If you have had your visit, call your doctor’s office and ask for help. They can give you a referral or make contact with a specialist who performs mammogram screenings.
We are here to help, too. Here’s what we can do for you:
- We can help you find a primary care doctor if you don’t have one. If you are a BlueMedicare HMO member, you must have a primary care doctor to coordinate your care. You don’t have to have one if you are in PPO plan. But having a primary care doctor can help you coordinate your care and look at the total picture of your health. It’s especially important if you see multiple specialists. Your primary care doctor will be the one person who has an eye on everything to do with your health.
- We can also help you schedule any appointments you need during a 3-way call.
- If you have trouble leaving the house, we can send care to you. Florida Blue works with vendors who provide in-home assessments at no cost to you.
Healthy Blue Rewards
Depending on your plan, you may be able to earn $25 in HealthyBlue Rewards for completing this screening. To learn more about HealthyBlue Rewards, please visit floridablue.com/healthybluerewards.
You can earn a reward just by getting a mammogram, also called a breast cancer screening. Based on your history, your doctor will help you decide how often you should be checked and when is the right time for you. Complete a mammogram screening anytime between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018, to earn a reward.
Note: Plans eligible for HealthyBlue Rewards include BlueMedicare Choice (RPPO), BlueMedicare Select (PPO), BlueMedicare Complete (HMO SNP), BlueMedicare Classic (HMO), BlueMedicare Classic Plus (HMO) and BlueMedicare Premier (HMO).
BlueMedicare Preferred (HMO), BlueMedicare group retiree plan, BlueMedicare Supplement and BlueMedicare Rx (PDP) members are not eligible for HealthyBlue Rewards.
Filed under: Medicare News